Hurry up. Wait. Downhill skiing is all about going hard in short bursts and then sitting still, exposed to the elements, for five to 15 minutes (and sometimes longer). The dramatic swings are hard to dress for, demanding a base layer that wicks as well as it insulates.
Nothing works better than merino, and Icebreaker’s Winter Zone tops and bottoms ($150/$130) take wool to the next level, combining three weights of fabric to calibrate insulation to where the body needs it most—more in the cold zones, less in sweaty spots (knees, armpits and back) and mid-weight in between.
For those freezing chairlift rides, a cozy fleece sweater, like the Sherpa Ananta Pullover ($145), can’t be beat—it dries fast and the hood can add extra warmth when it’s really frigid.
Those layers are meaningless without the right exterior protection: top and bottoms that kill wind-chill and deflect snow and rain. Helly Hansen’s Elevation Jacket ($750) is made of burly material tough enough to withstand years of abuse and pockets of insulation give it adaptability—locking in heat when needed and providing plenty of room for air flow when it’s not.
The North Face
For pants, look for minimal seams and a waterproof fabric, especially on the butt to protect from soggy chairs. The North Face Brigandine Pant ($550) uses FuseForm, a proprietary way of making fabrics with different properties to cut down on seams and reduce weight, while upping durability.